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Adobe MAX 2009. First major release: LiveCycle Enterprise Suite 2

Adobe announced new version of their business process management software

RIA Developer's Journal on Ulitzer

Today, Adobe announced a major release of LiveCycle® Enterprise Suite 2 (ES2), an SOA architecture for automation of document processing, RIA, and process management.  It’s an enterprise platform for SOA that brings together various technologies and tools including LiveCycle Data Services, Flex, Flash, Adobe Acrobat and more to deliver user centric applications.

While PDF remains one of the major artifacts of LiveCycle ES2, this version makes a step toward rich Flash-based clients.

Comparing to LiveCycle ES 8.2, developers will experience better productivity in various workflows. For example, if before they’d need to perform 31 steps to pre-populate a form in Workspace (remember these form variables, end points, and type declarations?), now it’s only a 3-step process.  Designing a parallel approval process now takes only 16 steps vs. 47 in the past. Getting attachments from an initial task is only 3 steps vs. 33.

Eclipse-based Workspace has been also improved. You’ll see a new concept of an Application Model, which replaces the need to manage separately forms, processes, all of the assets in run-time repositories. Now you’ll have the application view that allows working on all your assets locally submitting them to the server when ready. This allows creators of LiveCycle Workbench to build new wizards and improve the process of exporting the assets into LCA- the LiveCycle archive file that can be easily moved from development to QA and production environments. The archival wizard asks you a set of questions about what to do at the end of process and will define variables and configure services accordingly.

Developers will be able to deploy applications without the need to leave the Workbench. Yep, no need to leave the Workbench and logging in the browser-based admin UI for this.

Introduction of source and version control brings to developer a familiar process of making changes locally (minimizing the number of server requests) with check-in/check-out features. Since LiveCycle enterprise project usually involve large development teams, better source and version control management is big news.

The process design canvas is now Flash-based, which offers better image quality and faster rendering. There is a new process wizard, approval process introduces a concept of a multi-user step - no need to create any  gateway – just use one task (with a multi-user list) to create parallel routing in the business process. The users will be able to use natural language in driving their routes with conditions like “if the process has more than 50% of users accepted/rejected…”

Form rendering is a lot quicker. Forms designer has a new Action Builder that can be used by people who are not developers. They can specify, that if, say the data is entered in a specific field, the message box should be displayed – the JavaScript code to support this will be generated on the fly. Even though the Action Builder has a rich set of functions off the shelf, the enterprises can extend this set to add new actions.

LiceCycle Data Services 3 includes a concept of model-driven development. The same technology becomes available in LiveCycle ES as well.  In the previous version of LiveCycle the forms guides were tied to the form itself, but now they are bound to the data model.

Document editor has some substantial improvements – no need to manually write XML – drag and drop the elements to the document tree using friendly UI that behind the scene generates DDX command file.
Now Document Assembler can generate PDF portfolios in the automated (batch) mode. A PDF portfolio is a file that embeds Flesh Player, a navigation tree and a number of PDFs that, say represent a bunch of documents that are needed to open a bank account. This file can be attached as a regular PDF to an email, and the recipient just needs to have Acrobat Reader 9 or newer to start enjoying working with such portfolios.

Introduction of a new designer-developer workflow remains a little bit fuzzy to me – let’s wait and see what Adobe has to show in February of 2010 during release of Flash Catalyst and Flash Builder 4. By the way, the latter should include a plugin for discovery of LiveCycle services. Also, a new LiveCycle ES2 plug-in for Flash Builder 4 lets developers embed LiveCycle ES2 technologies into any Flex-based application.

The new LiveCycle Mosaic ES2 is a composite RIA framework for rapidly assembling intuitive, personalized and activity-centric RIA application. You assemble them from so called tiles, which can be either Flash or HTML-based. You may thin of it as a portal that can be assembled based on some activity that an end user needs to perform.

The large number of substantial improvements introduced in the LiveCicle ES2 certainly qualifies it to be called a major release.  Now it’s your turn – try it out and see for yourself.  To have more responsive development environment, ask your boss to get you a PC with at least 6GB of RAM. Having faster disk is more important to LiveCycle   than RAM – order a 7200 RPM hard disk or even SSD.

Adobe LiveCycle ES2 is expected to become available before the end of 2009. The cloud deployment option is expected to become available in early 2010. Since Adobe is actively working with Amazon cloud, I expect to see a lot more competitive prices than exist today. The cost of implementing cloud-based business processes with LiveCycle should be substantially lower.

For more information about LiveCycle ES2, please visit: http://www.adobe.com/livecycle

More Stories By Yakov Fain

Yakov Fain is a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and the product company SuranceBay. He wrote a thousand blogs (http://yakovfain.com) and several books about software development. Yakov authored and co-authored such books as "Angular 2 Development with TypeScript", "Java 24-Hour Trainer", and "Enterprise Web Development". His Twitter tag is @yfain

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